Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hegel on Religion, Christianity, Morality and Ethics - Summary

Hegel was a deeply religious philosopher who had do settle his Christianity with the rationality of his times. Hegel rejected the Theistic Rationalism which he compared unfavorably to the Greek spirit of religion. Hegel thought of the Bible as a product of an alien race out of harmony with the German soul. His point was that the Greek religion was a Volksreligion whereas Christianity seemed something imposed from without. Hegel’s affection for Greek culture and religion was soon modified by Kant (which led him to see the lack of profundity in Greek religion) because Kant expounded an ethics free from religion. Hegel liked Kant ethics and thought it had much in common with Jesus (Life of Jesus, 1795) depicting Christ as a moral teacher and an expounder of Kantian ethics. Thus, he rejected a view of Christ as a mediator between God and man and as imposing revealed dogma (which if Jesus did, it was not his intent).

The question then arises how did Christianity become transformed into an authoritarian, ecclesiastical, and dogmatic system (see The Positivity of the Christian religion, 1795-97) which alienated man from his true self by eliminating freedom of thought and freedom of action? Later Hegel made Judaic legalism the villain (see The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate, 1800). Here we have the Jewish God as master and man as slave. In contrast, Jesus preached Christ-God as love which could overcome the alienation of man from God. Jesus rises above Jewish legalism and Kantian moralism: according to Hegel, morality should not be imposed but rise spontaneously as an expression of man’s participation in the infinite divine life.

Here we already see the themes that would occupy Hegel later: alienation and recovery of lost unity. When he compared Judaism and Christianity he was already unhappy with a remote transcendent God and adhered to a notion of feeling for infinite totality. The Absolute is infinite life and love and the Absolute is the conscious unity of this life, of unity with the infinite and unity with others. Note the effort after “wholeness” so alien to scientific materialism, empiricism, individualism, and instrumental reason.